Over 40 AR companies & Qualcomm, Microsoft, Google, Intel, Nvidia, and Nokia coming to Augmented Reality Event: Are Nokia back in AR?

Fri, May 14, 2010

Screen shot 2010-05-14 at 9.41.29 AM

I have been so busy working on Augmented Reality Event, Jun 2nd, 3rd, Santa Clara, CA, in recent weeks that I have barely had time to post!  But it’s getting hard to contain my excitement about ARE2010.  If you haven’t already seen the sneak preview of the schedule  – see here.

Augmented Reality Event will be an unique opportunity to see how the complete vision of AR is emerging, one that will include visual recognition of real life objects, sensors to enable interaction with physical objects, and the long anticipated, comfortable, sexy, AR eyewear.  Six companies with be presenting and exhibiting AR glasses and HMDs at Augmented Reality Event.

Keynote luminaries will include: Bruce Sterling, “AR Prophet,” Will Wright (Spore, The Sims & now AR and The Stupid Fun Club), Jesse Schell (who will give the AR follow up to his now viral Dice talk), and Blaise Aguera y Arcas (Microsoft, Bing), whose talk on augmented reality maps was one of the most popular talks at TED this year.

Over 40 AR companies from all over the world are represented, and there will be speakers from Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Intel, and Nvidia.  Over 80 augmented reality experts and entrepreneurs are presenting, including a AR titans, Total Immersion and Metaio.   Mobilizy, Layar, Ogmento, TagWhat, Tonchidot, and Zenitum (just to name a few of the stellar augmented reality start ups coming – for more, and a list of speakers see here) will demonstrate AR is not just a vision, but actually drives significant businesses today,

Five Augmented Reality industry start ups will be on the hot seat in a Launchpad competition with $10,000 prize for the winner, thanks to the generosity of  Qualcomm, a leading developer and innovator of advanced wireless technologies, and the featured sponsor of Augmented Reality Event.  Zenitum, a leading augmented reality company, with a technology portfolio that includes both location and advanced vision-based sensory input is the Gold sponsor for ARE2010, and Adobe are sponsoring the ARt Gala & Reception.  Many thanks to the sponsors for making ARE2010 possible.

Readers of this post can use my discount code TISH245 to register here for a $245 price for the whole 2 day event.

But just to add some balance to my total enthusiasm for the rocket like trajectory of augmented reality in recent months, this post will also look at an area that has been, to date, disappointing for AR developers.   While Nokia will have a couple of speakers at ARE2010, and certainly they have a very impressive history in augmented reality research, they have not delivered the magic brew to attract the augmented reality developer community.   Will this change with the release of the N8 (see video opening this post)?  I wanted to find out if AR developers see a light at the end of the tunnel with N8 as a platform for AR.  So I asked some AR developers and entrepreneurs, “How attractive is the N8 for the AR community?”

Nokia’s apparent nonchalance about augmented reality is in sharp contrast to the bear hug shown in this Verizon Droid Augmented Reality Ad featuring Layar!  As Bruce Sterling notes,

*Hollywood-up for Layar by cooking up some o’ those big-time sci-fi production values.
All magic, all the time, Mr. Roboto.

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And it is clear that everyone has high hopes that iPhone SDK 4 delivers fully for AR developers this time! For more on this listen to @chrisgrayson’s 3rd video on Mobile AR here.

But before I get back to my question about the AR community’s thoughts on N8 as a platform for augmented reality, let me crow just a little more about the upcoming awesomeness of Augmented Reality Event.  As the chair of the technology track, ARE2010 is on my mind night and day at the moment!

The tools for the kind of augmented reality we have always dreamed of  – the zero click interface to a heads up, hyperlocal view, bringing you computing anywhere, anytime, with anything, are evolving fast.  Powerful algorithms for search, and machine learning, combined with cooperating cloud data services, will soon be bringing apps that learn by context accumulation to your AR view (see Siri).  Google Goggles, who will have a speaker at ARE2010, have already announced their intent to open APIs, putting a vital tool of visual search in developer’s hands.

A bunch of technologies are maturing these days and helping bring AR to consumers.  Mobile devices that pack all the ingredients for AR, location-based services, see thru video goggles, visual search, innovations in 3D mapping, Simple Geo’s innovative a approach to aggregating geo data, and the next generation of “Street View” such as Earthmine, and, very importantly, open standards and software for AR that will bring many new opportunities for creativity, and monetization.   These are just some of the aspects of this energetic technology convergence that will be represented at  Augmented Reality Event.

In the area of open standards, I am especially excited about the debut of Polaris at Augmented Reality Event.  Polaris is an AR browser, from Blair MacIntyre and the Georgia Tech team, based as much as possible on existing standards and tech.  More on this and ARWave in another post!  Also, I am excited to be demoing ARWave at the Com.Geo 2010 conference, June 21 – 23, in Washington.  Again more on this later.

But for now back to my question opening this post:

“Are Nokia back in the AR?”  and “How attractive is the N8 to the AR community?”

First I asked, my co-chair on Augmented Reality Event, Ori Inbar of Ogmento – one of the augmented reality start ups who’s star is on the rise, and Ori (also known for his writing on Games Alfresco) is one of the key thought leaders in the emerging augmented reality industry.

Ori Inbar:

“Well, the hardware spec is impressive – but that’s not what makes it a good AR device. What’s really important is reach, distribution, and ease of development – areas in which the N8 still has a lot to prove.

- Will the N8 become as prevailing as the iPhone or lead Android phones or will the Nokia landscape remain fragemented with too many variants of phones to support?

- Will the Ovi store pick up steam and become a lucrative chanel for selling apps?

While we wait for these questions to be answered – we’ll keep developing games for Android and the iPhone ;)

So there you go.

Ori is right that augmented reality developers like the hardware specs.  Here are some comments from Patrick O’Shaughnessey of Patched Reality, Peter Meier, Metaio, and whurley of Chaotic Moon and Robert Rice, Mirascape.

Patrick O’Shaughnessey:

“Looks like it has everything one would want to make both looking glass and magic mirror AR, and built-in face recognition software to boot!  I wonder if they allow you to use both cameras at once making AR video conferencing possilbe?”

“Dedicated graphics processor with OpenGL 2.0 enables 3D graphics” nice!

“Looks like it also does Flash (Flash Lite 4.0, anyway). Not sure if Flash Light provides access to the camera. Could be a nice way to do quick and dirty POC’s on the device”

Peter Meier:

“Metaio thinks the N8 is a very promising device for AR. Especially in Europe we expect a lot of reach.  Symbian is hard to develop for, but on the other hand is much more efficient in terms of real time performance than Android and less restrictive on APIs than iPhone.”


“It looks really great and perfect for ar in many regards.”

“clarity of a 12 MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics will give the Nokia N8 some clear advantages in the AR world.  The clarity of this camera will allow for more advanced applications of augmented reality such as image/object recognition”.
Robert Rice:

“At first glance this is definitely very impressive from a hardware specification. I am surprised though, at the lack of buzz about the device. I have heard virtually nothing about it in the usual sources I monitor, and I wonder about the marketing.

Given the technical superiority and the difficulty Nokia has had penetrating at least the North American market, maybe something catchier like the GR-8 (Nokia Great) or M8 (Nokia Mate) might be a bit more user friendly and easier to market. I particularly like “Nokia M8″…take it with you wherever you go, can’t live without it, etc.

Anyway, as awesome as the specifications are, I would like to echo some of the other comments here…tools, community, ease of development, etc. are critical parts of the ecosystem that would make this ideal for AR development, above and beyond the pure hardware specs. I think Nokia has to really re-think some of its strategy to engage consumers, attract the developers, and establish a new beachhead in North America.”

Talking with Michael Halbherr at Where 2.0

I talked to Michael Halbherr briefly at Where 2.0 before the release of details on the N8, so, of course, he was unable to be as explicit as he might have been about the N8.  Below is a lightly edited transcript.  At Where 2.0, Michael Halbherr  gave a clear explanation of  Nokia’s emphasis on a global strategy.   And, as this blow by blow account on the Google Earth Blog noted, “They’re doing some cool stuff with their handheld maps. In particular, their Ovi Maps (turn-by-turn navigation) are now completely free and becoming very popular.”

But the question remains:  Where is AR is on the Nokia roadmap?


Michael Halbherr (Nokia) on stage at the O’Reilly Where 2.0 Conference 2010 in San Jose, California. Photo by James Duncan Davidson. See Where 2.0 Flickr set here.

Tish Shute: Can I ask you a few questions about Augmented Reality?

Michael Halbherr: So for me augmented reality and mixed reality is essentially a way you search.  So when you look at where we come from, as the company that acquired Gate 5, we believe the phone is essentially the gate that basically combines or connects your virtual and your real world in both ways.  So we can have virtual overlays on top of reality, and you can also record and push it back.

But when you look at the way we do it, I think it is actually an extension of mapping, right?  So you will have the map, which is an abstraction of reality, and then basically with a flick you can go to real reality.  And I think to really understand what you see, you need to actually really know what you see, and an image doesn’t do that.  But if you have compass, and GPS, and 3D models, which is what Navteq is capturing, we can actual do line of sight calculations and you can really say, “OK.  He is looking at that building.” And you can click on the building because you have that understanding.  And you can combine that.  And that leads to a completely new way for how people interact with their environment.

So the here and now, and me here and now, and what next is a key innovation in our focus hereafter.

Tish Shute: I suppose for AR enthusiasts we were all disappointed when we saw the N900 with Maemo, which was very exciting as an operating system, didn’t have a compass.

Michael Halbherr: Yeah, but you know, that is just a matter of timing.  At the end of the day, Meego is our, I think, high-end push.  You will see this Mego device have what you need it to have.  So I wouldn’t worry too much about that.  We are building all the  phones, and everything has everything.

I think it is not just Meego.  It is the whole thing around it.  It is the QT, it is the web run time, it is the whole Meego system.

Tish Shute: Yes we have used QT for some development on the ARWave project, it is very good.

Michael Halbherr: Yeah, and the web run times, it’s open…So Nokia is about open and emotional.  Others are maybe open and more utilitarian or closed, and we are more open and more emotional.  And I think that is what we want to basically do with this platform.

And we are working very hard.  And so whatever I say has been built almost a year ago.  So there is a lot that we are building that we don’t talk about before we announce.  And we try to do this as a global offer, so we can’t launch a little service in the US, which maybe is a problem for us.  But we are basically building complete solutions for global markets.

Tish Shute: Yes.  And when I heard you talk just now on Nokia’s global strategy just now, it all fits in.  But from the point of view from someone who lives here in the US, it seems Nokia is disappointing us.

So is Nokia enabling augmented reality in any ways that noone else is?   I mean if you are interested in augmented reality, the backend and data is vital, e.g. the Navteq part.  And Apple has excited us with the amazing performance of their hardware, and they have taken steps like controlling the manufacture of their chips, powerful cpu and gpu is very important for augmented reality experiences too? Is there a need for a chip set geared to augmented reality specifically?

Michael Halbherr: I’m not sure you have to go that far.  I think at the end of the day it is the data, right?  The map data and the 3D data that is actually extremely important.

Tish Shute: Yeah, I agree with you that the data is vitally important.

Michael Halbherr: Because at the end of the day, when you have a real abstract view, it is really important, because the camera or the view is only a viewer, right?  And people don’t really know what they see.  It is just they plaster on it believing that the person sees what he sees.  So I think real augmented reality or mixed reality is really basically having a real picture, but having, actually, the understanding of the 3D logic of the picture.  And for that, you need to capture the data which Navteq is doing.

Tish Shute: The original dream of augmented reality is 3D media and graphics tightly registered to the physical world.  But actually, it is the data…being able to integrate the streams of data and sensor fusion techniques that will make this interesting and possible right?

Michael Halbherr: Again, it is overlaying virtual elements on real elements.  It is like you are taking your glasses and now you can see information attached.  And of course, you need to make sure it is not overloaded, and that everybody works with it, and it is precise.  So that is basically it.  So I think that is why we are investing a lot in the precision of the maps and the 3D elements of the maps.

At this point we had to leave our seats has the set was being broken down for the next event at Where 2.0.  Check out all the videos for Where 2.0 here,  it was a watershed event for all things hyperlocal, geo, and augmented!

categories: Android, architecture of participation, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, digital public space, Instrumenting the World, internet of things, iphone, Mixed Reality, mobile augmented reality, mobile meets social, Mobile Reality, Mobile Technology, new urbanism, Smart Planet, social gaming, ubiquitous computing, Web 2.0, Web Meets World
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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Simon St.Laurent Says:

    I think you mean June 2-3 and not January 2-3. Sounds exciting, though I can’t make it!

  2. James Corbett Says:

    Just a note that the very first line of your post says the event is on “Jan 2nd, 3rd”, instead of “Jun 2nd, 3d”. :-)

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